When Moshe Holtzberg was two years old, Islamic terrorists stormed into the Nariman Chabad house in Mumbai where he was living with his parents. His father, Gavriel, and his mother, Rivka, six months pregnant, were murdered; Moshe was saved by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuels, who grabbed him and ran out of the house.
This week, when Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, Moshe Holtzberg, now ten, was there to greet him.
With Modi’s arms around him, Moshe welcomed the prime minister in Hindi. “Namaste, aapka swagat hai hamare desh mein (welcome to our country),” he said.
“I want to ask you something from all of us: Please continue to love me forever. Thank you,” Holtzberg added. “And always remember my parents. I live in Afula, but I remember our connection to Nariman House. I hope I will be able to visit Mumbai and when I get older, I live there. Dear Mr. Modi, I love you and the people in India.”
Touched, Modi replied that Holtzberg and his family were welcome to visit India whenever they’d like. The prime minister also met with Samuels, who now works with children in Jerusalem and visits Holtzberg and his grandparents on weekends. Samuels was given honorary citizenship for her heroic act by Israel in 2010.
The meeting also called attention to the effort to construct a Memorial Museum at the Nariman House in Mumbai. Rabbi Yisroel Kozlovsky, the co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, said the museum “will help continue [Rivka and Gavriel Holtzberg’s] legacy.”
For the family, the visit meant that Holtzberg’s parents have not been forgotten. His grandfather, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, told the Indian Press that he was “deeply moved” by Modi’s effort. “We feel we have a home in Mumbai and that we have a family there,” he said. “I would like to do Moshe’s bar mitzvah there in two-and-a-half years and will ask Prime Minister Modi to attend it.”
Watch the encounter here:
Sophie Aroesty is an editorial intern at Tablet.